You don’t need to spend a lot to turn your garden into an abundant oasis in spring, if you take action now.
This may involve digging up, dividing and replanting congested perennials to give you more plants next year. Or moving tender specimens under cover or protecting them with fleece before the first frosts show up, to ensure they survive winter and start new growth in spring.
Evergreens, shrubs and plants like pansies can be planted in containers now to give you some winter colour – the pansies may sulk over winter but should burst into life again in spring, while evergreens and shrubs can be replanted in the garden.
If you have a greenhouse, think about sowing early annuals now – a packet of seeds is far cheaper than buying plants in bloom next spring. Pansies and violas, sweet peas, cornflowers and nigella are among the colourful candidates you can sow now.
Planning ahead, reusing and opting for long-lasting plants can help you stick to a strict garden budget while still enjoying a fantastic display, says Jonathan Bracewell of plant and bulb company J. Parker’s (jparkers.co.uk).
People who leave their planting until springtime but still want a colourful display have to buy flowers already in bloom, but doing it this way can cost significantly more than bulbs, he observes.
“The biggest issue when it comes to frugal gardening is planting too late. Established plants require a lot more care from nurseries, which means they cost more,” says Bracewell. “Planting bulbs in autumn may mean you have to wait a bit longer to enjoy blooms, but it’s always a pleasant surprise come springtime and is best for the bank balance too.”
He are more of his budget-friendly tips for spring displays…
1. Plant spring bulbs now
Autumn is the best time to plant bulbs as the soil is still warm and moist, rather than waterlogged. Spring flowering bulbs that are best planted now include daffodils, snowdrops, hyacinths and crocuses. If you can plant these before the first frosts, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful burst of colour in early spring.
In October, planting lilies and alliums as bulbs will give you later spring and summer blooms – remember, these plants can often grow much taller than other spring flowers, so consider the placement carefully to make the most of each bloom. November is best for planting tulip bulbs for a late spring display.
“Most of these spring bulbs will want to be positioned in sunny conditions with fertile, well-draining soil. If you are unsure, check the specific instruction for each bulb, but the key is to prevent these bulbs from rotting over winter, so avoid soil that’s likely to be regularly waterlogged,” Bracewell advises.
2. Consider bulk buying if you’ve lots of space to fill
Purchasing a bulk collection with lots of bulbs will add different colours and textures to your garden, creating depth and interest. Bulk-buying can also help save money.
3. Choose smaller plants
Opting for smaller plants can cut costs too and some grow fast to provide a display quickly. For example, two-year-old trees will be more cost-effective than older trees but shouldn’t take too long to establish, says Bracewell.
4. Opt for colour from perennials
If you’re choosing more cost-effective, smaller plants which may take a little time to establish, select fast-growing perennials that can quickly take up space. These add colour and fullness to flower beds, while you wait for smaller trees and shrubs to catch up.
“Vibrant ground cover perennials can spread, detracting from young trees and shrubs. You can also find border collections that will fill your flower beds with year after year cover without having the individual select each flowering type,” Bracewell adds. “Buying a perennial collection can often be a cost-effective and stress-free way to add colour and life to gardens, without purchasing each variety individually and researching each colour option.”
5. Grow pretty fruit trees
Many dwarf fruit trees are attractive and perfect for patio pots, due to their size. Growing fruits such as plums, apples, pears and cherries not only offers colourful blossom in spring, but could help cut your grocery bills too, Bracewell suggests.
While not all fruits are ready to plant in autumn, start planning which ones you regularly buy and, if you grew them yourself, could save you money in the long run.